State calls FBI witness as testimony starts in Whitmer kidnap case
Jurors heard testimony and viewed evidence against three men accused of helping plan the abduction of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Prosecutors continued Thursday to argue their case against the last three men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Eric Molitor and brothers Michael and William Null are accused of providing material support for acts of terrorism, and illegally possessing firearms.
Opening arguments concluded Wednesday in 13th Circuit Court in Antrim County, and the prosecution began its case with FBI Special Agent Henrik “Hank” Impola.
His testimony continued Thursday, as he read messages and memes exchanged online between defendants, including some with plot ringleaders Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr.
Fox and Croft were convicted last year and are serving prison sentences.
ON THE STAND
The prosecution, led by Assistant Attorney General William Rollstin, has already spent time in opening arguments highlighting video clips of the men shooting guns in training exercises, and audio of a trip to surveil Whitmer’s cabin in Elk Rapids.
And defense attorneys have argued participating in militia activities — which usually involves paramilitary training — is not a crime.
“Bill Null has a healthy distrust of the government, and that alone is not a crime,” said attorney Kristyna Nunzio, who represents Willaim Null. “And he's a firm believer in his second amendment rights not only to bear arms, but for a well-regulated militia.”
Also not a crime, she said.
On the witness stand, the FBI’s Impola, who oversaw the use of undercover informants in the case, said the men “seemed to be escalating towards violence,” and that law enforcement officials were paying attention to their actions.
“When the rubber meets the road, what are they going to do? Are they going to go out and shoot somebody? Are they going be a trigger puller?” Impola said. “What kinds of things are they going to do, rather than what they just say online?”
But jurors also saw evidence of what the defendants had said online. Rollstin displayed — and in many cases had Impola read — memes, comments and social media posts, many of which displayed hatred toward police and politicians.
One meme in a group chat for the Michigan Liberty Militia, where the Null brothers were allegedly leaders, had a picture of a hangman’s gallows, with the caption “government repair kit.”
But prosecutors will need to prove that Molitor and the Null brothers were not just keyboard warriors but that they actually provided material support to the plot.
The entire trial is expected to last about three weeks.